Sometimes, when a child loses a baby tooth, the tooth looks hollow. Since it can appear that primary teeth aren’t as complex as permanent teeth and they’re going to be replaced anyway, things like cavities in kids or trauma to a baby tooth might not seem like a huge deal. A lot of our patients wonder do baby teeth have nerves? Keep on reading to find the truth.
The truth is, not only do baby teeth serve a number of super important roles, including saving space for the permanent teeth to erupt properly, the anatomy of baby teeth is the same as the anatomy of permanent teeth. So, cavities in kids can hurt and, if not treated, lead to more serious issues.
Do Baby Teeth Have Nerves?
Yes, baby teeth do have nerves! When the nerves are damaged or irritated, tooth pain in a child can occur just like it does in an adult. Typically, this type of tooth nerve pain is due to an injury or a large cavity that has spread into the tooth’s pulp, reaching the nerves inside.
To give you a better idea of the ins and outs of kids’ teeth, the team here at Bitesize Pediatric Dentistry has put together a baby teeth anatomy lesson. In this post, we’ll answer:
- Are baby teeth hollow?
- What are the different parts of a primary tooth?
- Why do problems like tooth decay in children have to be treated?
Are Baby Teeth Hollow?
By the time a primary tooth gets to the Tooth Fairy, it can look like there’s nothing inside of it. But, baby teeth are not hollow. In actuality, as a permanent tooth gets ready to erupt, its crown pushes against the baby tooth above it. This causes the roots and inner contents to slowly dissolve, which is why baby teeth get loose and fall out on their own without intervention. It’s also why losing baby teeth is usually painless.
What are the Different Parts of a Baby Tooth?
There are four main parts of a tooth, whether it’s a primary or permanent tooth (Stanford Children’s Health has a good diagram of the parts of a tooth if you’d like a visual):
The outer layer of a baby tooth is called the enamel. Dental enamel is the hardest material in the body. It protects the tooth from bacteria, acids, hot and cold, and physical forces that would cause damage if they reached the vital tissue inside. While the enamel of baby teeth is a little thinner than permanent tooth enamel, it can resist cavities equally as well. However, once a cavity does start, the thinner enamel means it can spread more quickly.
Dentin makes up the inner layer and is the largest structural component of a tooth. It has microscopic tubules. If enamel wears away and the dentin is exposed, these tubules let hot, cold, acidic or sweet foods and drinks stimulate the nerve cells, causing tooth sensitivity. Dentin’s job is to support the enamel so that kids can chew without the enamel fracturing. It also surrounds the soft tissue at the center of the tooth, protecting it from bacteria and other harmful intruders.
Pulp is the soft tissue inside of the tooth found in the pulp chamber. It contains nerves, connective tissue and blood vessels. The pulp is responsible for a tooth’s blood supply and its vascular network connects to the tissues around the tooth, including the periodontal ligament. The pulp of a primary tooth can become inflamed, infected or even die like that of an adult tooth, which is why you can do a root canal on a baby tooth, though the procedure isn’t as common as it is in grown-ups.
A tooth’s root is what secures the tooth in the jawbone. It’s covered by a hard connective tissue, known as cementum, that attaches it to the periodontal ligament.
Why Do Problems Like Tooth Decay in Children Have to be Treated?
As you can see, a baby tooth’s anatomy is the same as that of a permanent tooth. Our Park Slope, Williamsburg and DUMBO, Brooklyn pediatric dentists treat conservatively and when a child does have a problem, our aim is to stop the pain, preserve as much of the tooth’s natural structure as possible and eliminate any infection.
When a baby tooth isn’t ready to fall out but it is decayed or experiences trauma, saving the tooth so that it can continue to do those important jobs we mentioned is ideal. If a primary tooth comes out completely or has to be extracted, often, a dental space maintainer will be placed to prevent the other teeth from shifting into the space left behind and causing crowding.
Visiting your pediatric dentist as soon as you can when a child has an injury or complains of tooth pain, or you suspect they have a cavity, will increase the chances that the baby tooth can be successfully treated. Catching issues early also means treatment will be less invasive, allowing us to avoid things like root canals on baby teeth.
Let’s Keep Those Baby Teeth Strong and Healthy!
Aside from a healthy diet and diligent brushing and flossing, regular visits with your pediatric dentist will go a long way in keeping your child’s baby teeth cavity-free. If you’re looking for a fun, friendly pediatric dentist in Brooklyn, schedule an appointment for your little one at Bitesize Pediatric Dentistry today!